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Committee on Temple Mount Prayer Convenes for First Session

Will Jews be allowed to pray at their holiest site? Knesset subcommittee will hear Temple activists' arguments, for the first time.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 4/7/2014, 9:01 AM

Temple Mount
Temple Mount
Flash 90

A special Knesset subcommittee will convene Monday and hear arguments for allowing Jews to pray on the Mount. It is the first time that the Knesset is conducting an in-depth examination of Jewish demands to be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, which has been under nominal Israeli control for decades, but is administered by the Muslim Waqf.

The committee is a subcommittee of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee and was appointed by MK Miri Regev (Likud-Beytenu), who heads the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. Its members are MK David Tzur (Hatnua), MK Zevulun Kalfa (Jewish Home) and MK Nachman Shai (Labor).

"I am very excited as the day approaches,” wrote Yehuda Glick, Coordinator of the Liba Project for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, early Monday morning.

"The Subcommittee for Examining the Entry of Jews to the Temple Mount is convening for the first time,” Glick informed his Facebook followers. “The organizations that deal with encourage Jews to ascends to the Temple Mount were invited to the discussion.

"I do not know what will come of this committee but I am overjoyed. My feeling is that until today, no one ever really heard our side. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time in the 25 years that I have been involved in this matter, that someone wants to hear us, to listen to us.

"Even if they do not accept everything that is said, my feeling is that until today, no one ever really heard our version of things. They pinned all sorts of stigmas on us – extremists, delusional, lunatics, dangerous – but listen to what we have to say? They never did that.

"I hope for the best. I pray to G-d that we will be able to express the frustrations and problems in a truthful way without getting too worked up, that they will let us say what we want to say, that they will truly listen, and not just in a perfunctory way. And who knows, maybe we will succeed in advancing one more step toward human rights, for Jews on the Temple Mount, too? Will you say a prayer for us?”

Despite its supreme importance to Jews throughout the world, the Temple Mount - site of the two Holy Temples of Jerusalem and the place where some Jewish traditions say the creation of the world began - is at the center of an ongoing fight for Jewish prayer rights. The Waqf religious trust which administers the site's Al Aqsa Islamic complex refuses to allow any form of non-Muslim worship on the Mount, and Islamist groups have repeatedly threatened - and often carried out - violence over Jewish visits to the site.

As a result, Jews who pray - or are even deemed to be praying by the Waqf's security guards - are often arrested and removed from the Mount, in what Jewish activists have slammed as police "caving in" to Islamists.

But whereas the issue was for a long time considered too much of a religious and political hot potato to be addressed, that now seems to be changing. MKsDeputy Ministers and even senior government Ministers all regularly ascend the Mount, often exposing themselves to the same levels of harassment that stalwart Temple Mount activists have been putting up with for decades - each time fueling the debate over the Muslim monopoly over the holy site.

In January, a revolutionary bill was tabled to secure equal prayer rights for Jews on the Temple Mount - sparking fury from Muslim MKs.